Brown Buttabean Motivation gets $500k funding for health initiatives

By James Perry

Dave Letele says it's a great sigh of relief having the Ministry of Health finally agree to support his community health initiatives.

"How was I feeling? I was like 'finally'," he said.

"The way it felt was immense, immense joy. I was so happy because I knew this was going to enable us to help even more people. It's going to help us to be sustainable," he told Te Ao Mārama News.

The Ministry of Health is committing $500,000 in funding over two years to support Buttabean Motivation (BBM), the organisation founded by Letele.

BBM is a 15,000-strong movement in South Auckland, which engages predominately with Māori and Pacific whānau to improve their health and wellbeing through physical activity and nutritional advice in a culturally safe environment.

Today's announcement will create, what health ministry deputy drector-general, population health and prevention Deborah Woodley says is an innovative and collaborative partnership between the Ministry, BBM (supported by The Just Move Charitable Health Trust) and Total Healthcare PHO.

'The lease is not free'

“It’s an equity-focused, local initiative where BBM focuses on supporting, educating, and training local communities, particularly people with long-term conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

“Long-term conditions are the leading cause of illness, disability, and death in New Zealand. In addition to personal health costs, they produce a significant economic and social burden.

BBM's programmes have been deliberately kept free, he says to keep them accessible to as many people as possible, but the overheads needed to keep the organisation afloat have been racking up.

"Everything we do is free. But unfortunately, the lease is not free, the wages are not free. Everything we do costs but we don't want to have barriers for our people. 

"The biggest thing for us is it enables us to scale up, to hire more people to continue to run these programmes and it's creating pathways for employment for our people. A massive sense of relief and it's only the first step."

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare, who has long championed Letele's cause. made the announcement on Friday. He paid tribute to the passion Letele has for the people he works with, and agreed with Letele it is a start.

BBM hubs everywhere

"It'll be a significant boost of funds that will allow you to continue what you're doing and what we hope to achieve for our community.

"In the words of my grandfather - we've come too far not to go further, and done too much not to do more," Henare told the crowd at BBM HQ in Manukau. 

Woodley says the new funding will enable BBM to strengthen its programmes – including, engaging and delivering additional motivational support, coaching and exercise programmes; developing a coaching network and ‘train the trainer’ workshops; increasing enrolment from groups and individuals with or at-risk of long-term conditions; expanding the workforce including health screening, health coaching and medical support from Total Healthcare.

“This is a really exciting initiative. The first intake referred from Total Healthcare PHO into the new extended programmes starts from February 2022. I look forward to hearing how the partnership progresses,” Woodley says.

With the funding and support in place for the next two years, Letele is as determined as ever to keep the programme going, and change the lives of people around the country.

"What I'd like to do is have BBM community hubs everywhere throughout New Zealand. Any deprived area BBM needs to be there. Obesity, diabetes it affects - if you're poor and brown, jeez you're up against it.

"That's what we want to be in those areas and much like marae, like community hubs we need to be."